from seed to fabric
Harvest time begins in July, when the flax has dropped all the leaves from it lower third. The harvest itself is made up of several phases. The stage where the plants are pulled from the earth and arranged on the field is most often followed by retting on the ground. Mother Nature takes over at this point, loosening the fibrous skins from their woody cores with sun and rain. The plants are then seeded, and the flax fibres and cores mechanically separated. The next stop for the dried, cleaned and combed flax fibres, also known as long fibres, is the spinning mill, where yarn is extracted from them for use in the weaving mill. And it is in the weaving mill that what was once a tiny seed finally becomes the fabric that dreams are made of.
a material as old as mankind
Linen is among the world’s oldest textile fibres. Early discoveries have been dated at 36,000 years BC. The very first examples of an apparatus for weaving can be seen in Egyptian reliefs and wall decoration from about 4000 BC. During this same era deceased dignitaries were wrapped in linen and mummified to conserve their bodies for posterity – an early example of confidence in the robust qualities of linen fibres.
Linen as a decorative element with integrated patters travelled via the trade routes to Europe where weaving technicians refined it over the centuries. Thanks to the opulence of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the damask weave became fashionable, while at the same time the use of the flax plant became more numerous. The production of sails and of linseed oil – the latter both for strengthening the body and for preserving works of art – are just two examples.
In the 17th and 18th century, linen had a competitor in woven silk and cotton from North America. Nonetheless, linen retained its status as the “kitchen towel’, a basic essential, and as an "imitation silk", a fashionable alternative for the poorer members of society.
When the first mechanical weaving loom made its appearance at the beginning of the 19th century, it resulted in a decisive change in the manufacture of textiles. The manufacture of linen was stamped with the influence of the industrialisation process right up to the 21st century. This not only has created numerous creative possibilities for linen, it has smoothed the way for this light and airy material to enter the postmodern era.